Dunham Family Values
This is a crazy story. Lena Dunham has written a memoir in which she describes sexually abusing her little sister, when they were both children. Here’s a photo of the relevant page from her memoir:
Here’s the Lena Dunham “sexual predator” joke, in case yall thought it was made up. pic.twitter.com/XmMUQD1OuK
— Dianna E Anderson (@diannaeanderson) November 1, 2014
Lena Dunham actually wrote that she was back then trying “anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl.” These are the words. That she wrote.
Mary Elizabeth Williams, over at Salon, is right that the Dunham anecdote that has many people upset — seven-year-old Lena spreading her sister’s legs and looking at her vagina — is not as big a deal as all that. Little kids play doctor; it’s up to parents who discover them doing this to sternly teach them the importance of privacy. I find the passage highlighted above, in the photo, much creepier. And even then, if Dunham — who, let’s face it, grew up in an extremely weird rich New York family — confessed this stuff with sorrow, it would be understandable. But she says these things (I’m talking about the passage above, about grooming her little sister) as if they were just part of her wacky, unconventional childhood. And Lena Dunham is upset that people judge her for her own words?
I have known at least two friends over the years who were sexually abused by older siblings. In both cases, the abuse had profound and lasting consequences on their psyches. What Lena Dunham describes doing to her little sister is sick and disgusting.
But her little sister Grace, all growed up and having embraced a lesbian identity, doesn’t necessarily agree with the critics. She tweets that critics are dedicated to maintaining “heteronormativity,” and that, “As a queer person: i’m committed to people narrating their own experiences, determining for themselves what has and has not been harmful.”
Now, imagine if Grace Dunham’s older brother had confessed to having done these things. Would he have any defenders? Imagine if the woman confessing to this abuse were not from a liberal Manhattan family, and had not been dubbed by some media outlets as the “voice of her generation,” but was instead a burger-flipper living in a trailer park, having confessed this on a blog. How would you feel about it then?
What if an NFL player had written the same kind of thing in his memoir? Or a Catholic priest?
Again, kids can do weird sexual things with each other when they’re little. But grown-ups feel shame and regret over these things, and if they speak of them at all, it is with a tone of deep remorse. Is Lena Dunham remorseful? Does her victim expect her to be? This is, you know, the same logic as NAMBLA: the child victim really wanted to be touched that way, and enjoyed it.
UPDATE: A reader posts another paragraph from Dunham’s memoir:
“I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old. She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5:00 P.M. every day whether she could sleep with me. I put on a big show of saying no, taking pleasure in watching her beg and sulk, but eventually I always relented. Her sticky, muscly little body thrashed beside me every night as I read Anne Sexton, watched reruns of SNL, sometimes even as I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out.”
What an exciting and admirable family.